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Exploring Chinese bronzes at 11 Chinese museums

Hubei Provincial Museum, Hubei province

Updated: Oct 15, 2021 govt.chinadaily.com.cn Print
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The bronze bell set ( bianzhong) of the Marquis Yi of the State of Zeng, from the permanent collection of the Hubei Provincial Museum. [Photo/hbww.org]

The early stages of human civilization are made up of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. Chinese people excelled in metallurgy and casting technologies of bronze -- an enduring alloy made of copper and tin -- during the late Neolithic Era. During the period of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties (c.21st century-256 BC), identified as China’s Bronze Age, offering sacrifices to ancestors and warfare weretwo major state affairs. Bronze ritual vessels indispensable to the many related rituals were called “fine metal” (jijin), and became a symbol of power and wealth.

Hubei province is located in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The Hubei Provincial Museum holds an extensive collection of bronzes unearthed from the province’s archaeological sites.

The Jianghan Plain, an alluvial plain formed by the Yangtze and Hanjiang rivers in the central and southern part of the province, witnessed the emergence of bronze casting technology as early as the late Neolithic Period. Discoveries from the Panlongcheng ruins site of the Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC)reflect the very early bronze civilization nurtured on the Jianghan Plain.

Hubei was also the territory of a string of ancient states, the most famous of which is the State of Zeng and the State of Chu from the 11th century to the 3rd century BC. The bronze wares unearthed from the Tomb of Marquis Yi of the State of Zeng represent the most remarkable achievements of Chinese bronze culture. A permanent exhibition is dedicated to excavations from the tomb, including a bronze bell set (bianzhong) that is considered to have changed the history of world music.

Click the link to learn more about the Hubei Provincial Museum

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